Afghanistan: Another blow for Herat women; Taliban bans them from restaurants

In another move against women in the western city of Herat, the Taliban has ordered restaurant owners to bar women from entering their establishments.

According to some restaurant owners, this latest order was issued by the Taliban’s vice and virtue directorate in Herat and is yet another blow to an industry that is already struggling to survive.

Two restaurant owners, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter and their safety, said on Monday they had created designated family areas in their restaurants at a huge cost after an initial order by the Taliban, which required separate dining facilities for families.

Despite following the initial orders, restaurant owners now have another edict to deal with.

They said that the Taliban is using Sharia to put pressure on restaurants.

“By this, they have barred us from operating even after we invested a lot in creating private booths for families,” said one restaurant owner.

“The members of the Taliban’s vice and virtue office came to my restaurant on Friday evening (March 31) and warned that the restaurant will be closed and the owner will face serious action if members of one family [that included women] were allowed to have food around one table,” said Mustafa, an employee of a restaurant in Herat city.

Herat residents also confirmed that they are not allowed to go to restaurants with female members of their families.

“I went to a restaurant with my husband and children to have food but we were not allowed to enter the restaurant,” said Shabnam, a Herat resident.

“We went to many restaurants (that day) but we were not allowed to enter. They told my husband that he can but his wife is not allowed in,” she added.

Meanwhile, Abdul Rahman, Taliban’s head of vice and virtue office in Herat, said a “mixed environment” leads to “forbidden” acts.

“The restaurants that have green areas like a garden. People go there and some disturbances happen there. (Therefore) the presence of women was banned there,” he said.This latest edict adds to a growing list of restrictions on women in society. Last year the Taliban banned women from visiting recreational areas including public baths, gyms and parks. They have also been banned from playing sport, from going to high school, university and other higher education classes.